BC Ferry Corp

BC FERRY CORP originated in 1958 during a labour dispute that shut down the privately owned ferry service between VANCOUVER ISLAND and the mainland. Premier W.A.C. BENNETT announced that his government would be going into the ferry business, and 2 vessels were built. Designed by Phillip Spaulding of Seattle and T. Arthur McLAREN of VANCOUVER, the Sidney and the Tsawwassen were put into service 9 June 1960 between terminals at Swartz Bay, north of VICTORIA, and TSAWWASSEN, south of Vancouver. Late in 1961 the government purchased the BLACK BALL LINE and took over the HORSESHOE BAYNANAIMO run as well. The early BC ferries were among the most efficient traffic movers in the world; this, combined with the fact that freight was being moved increasingly by truck rather than barge, led to a higher demand for ferry service. By 1965, 7 more vessels had been launched; then some ships were modified to accommodate more vehicles and passengers. In the 1970s and early 1980s the corporation ordered several larger vessels, the 137-m "C" Class ferries, which were the largest double-ended ships in the world at that time. Initially a branch of the Ministry of Highways, BC Ferries, as it is known, was reorganized as a CROWN CORP on 1 Jan 1977; it grew to become one of the world's largest ferry systems. The corporation ran 41 vessels on 26 routes and as of 2001 handled about 22 million passengers and close to 8 million vehicles annually. The longest route is the 491-km run through the INSIDE PASSAGE between PORT HARDY at the north end of Vancouver Island and PRINCE RUPERT (inaugurated from the original terminus at KELSEY BAY in 1966). Two Spirit Class ferries (the "superferries") were added to the fleet in 1994; each is 167.5 m long and capable of carrying 470 vehicles and 2,100 passengers. The vessels were built by a consortium of BC shipbuilders. These new ships were so much larger than the earlier vessels that the ferry terminals had to be upgraded to accommodate them. In 1996 BC Ferries launched the Discovery Coast Passage service, offering car ferry service from Port Hardy to BELLA COOLA with stops at coastal communities along the way. The latest addition to the fleet was the PacifiCat high-speed ferry ("fast ferry"), a 122.5-m aluminum catamaran vessel with a maximum speed of 70 km/h. The PacifiCat, with a capacity of 1,000 passengers and 250 vehicles, is the second largest catamaran in the world. Three of these vessels were built by Catamaran Ferries International Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of BC Ferry Corp; the first began service in 1999. Subsequent revelations about construction cost overruns and operational deficiencies led to one of the major controversies of Glen CLARK's term as PREMIER. In 2000 the government announced it would sell the fast ferries, which it did, in March 2003, at auction to the WASHINGTON MARINE GROUP for $19.2 million, a fraction of their original cost. In April 2003, the financially beleaguered Crown Corporation was transformed into a private company, BC Ferry Services Ltd, which operates the ferries on contract for the government in return for an annual fee. Since that time the aging fleet of vessels has been plagued by a series of mishaps, the most serious of which was the sinking of the Queen of the North in March 2006. The vessel struck a rock south of Prince Rupert; 2 of the 101 passengers and crew on board were lost. In 2008 the first of three new Super C class vessels went into operation between Vancouver I and the mainland. These German-made ships are the largest double-ended ferries in the world. In 2009-2010 the company operated a fleet of 36 vessels on 25 routes and carried 21 million passengers and 8.3 million vehicles. See also SHIPBUILDING; TOURISM.